Dan Wooding

Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST Ministries, shares this good news story…

The theme of the World Health Organization’s World Blood 2015 Donor Day was Thank you for Saving my Life.

‘Walking blood bank’
Mercy Ships volunteers saved the life of Sambany, a man with a 7.26 kilo (16-pound) facial tumour, by donating blood for him during a free operation onboard the hospital ship. The blood of seventeen people from six nations now runs through his veins. Sambany and many other surgery patients have received blood donations from the volunteer crew, the ‘walking blood bank’ on the Mercy Ship.



Samban’s huge tumour before the surgery (Photo: Mercy Ships)

According to Mercy Ships, Samban’s story began around 36 years ago, when a tumour began to consume his life. It became a monstrous facial tumour – the size of two extra heads. After nearly three decades as a maxillofacial surgeon, Dr Gary Parker, Mercy Ships Chief Medical Officer, says, ‘It’s one of the biggest tumours of this type that I’ve seen.’

Discomforted and sleepless, mocked and shunned
The tumour caused unrelenting physical and emotional discomfort. Sambany couldn’t sleep. When he walked, he had to hold the tumour. People rejected him, mocked him and shunned him.

Hopelessness defined his life. His search for help required travelling hundreds of kilometres and included ten hospitals (only three of which had surgeons) and a witch doctor … with no success. He grew weaker and weaker. His world shrank to the size of his house – his only place of safety and peace.

‘Then he heard a radio announcement that a hospital ship that could treat tumours for free was coming to Madagascar, a huge island nation off the southeast coast of Africa. It was a journey that only a desperate man would attempt. Five people took turns carrying him on their backs for two days … but he made it,’ said a spokesperson for Mercy Ships.

’The free surgery to remove the tumour took over half a day onboard the Mercy Ship, and over twice of his body’s volume of blood was lost and replaced. The crew, the living blood bank, literally poured life into Sambany.’
Mercy Ships crew and Samban

Crew surrounding Samban’s bed following the surgery on his huge tumour in Madagascar (Photo: Mercy Ships)

Dr Parker says, ‘I think that every human being has the right to look human. To be treated as human … to be able to re-enter the human race and to look like everyone else …. that’s a fantastic thing.’

World Blood Donor Day campaign aims to highlight stories of people whose lives have been saved through blood donation. When Sambany looked at himself in a hand-held mirror, seeing himself for the first time without his tumour, he said, ‘I am free from my disease. I’ve got a new face. I am saved!’

World Blood Donor Day was Sunday, June 14. Mercy Ships volunteer crew not only donate their time and skills, but their blood as well! Crews from Redmond, WA, Charlotte, NC, Richmond, VA, and Snohomish, WA, were among those who donated to Sambany. In total, 17 Mercy Ships crew from six nations stepped in to help save his life during his free operation to remove his 16-pound facial tumour.



Samban after the surgery. (Photo: Mercy Ships)

About Mercy Ships
Mercy Ships uses hospital ships to deliver free, world-class health care services, capacity building and sustainable development to those without access in the developing world. Founded in 1978 by Don and Deyon Stephens, Mercy Ships has worked in more than 70 countries providing services valued at more than $1 billion, treating more than 2.5 million direct beneficiaries.

Each year Mercy Ships has more than 1,600 volunteers from more than 40 nations. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, health care trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and agriculturalists donate their time and skills to the effort. Mercy Ships seeks to transform individuals and serve nations one at a time. For more information click on

Founder of ASSIST Ministries and the ASSIST News Service, Dan Wooding is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist. Recommended:

Mercy Ships2



Note: Mercy Ships is a unique medical hospital ship charity. Australian surgeons, nurses and other staff volunteer their services and pay for their own expenses so we can treat more people. Donations welcomed –

One comment

  1. A remarkable story of endurance by the man who was afflicted, and of love, courage and skill of those who gave what they could to do so much to help him.

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